The First Day of Spring by Nancy Tucker

After a few hours of blowing my cheeks out and pulling weird faces because this feels impossible to review, I’ll try my best at putting my thoughts into words that are remotely coherent.

Chrissie, an eight year old girl murdered a two year old boy by strangling him. That is no spoiler, we know this from the very first sentence.

‘I killed a little boy today. Held my hands around his throat, felt his blood pump hard against my thumbs’.

What follows is a dual narrative from Chrissie then and Chrissie now.

As an adult, she is Julia. She has a new identity and a daughter of her own, Molly. She is haunted by her terrible past, not only by her heinous crime, but by the truly horrific neglect from her Mam and useless excuse of a Da. She is scared for her own child, incase she has passed her ‘bad seed’ onto her own.

As a child, the unintentional humour from Chrissie is balanced with the horrors of her home life. The writing is styled to shock and then say ‘there there, it’s not that bad’ in a heartbeat.

‘There were lots of reasons I didn’t like Donna, apart from her being fat and a goody-goody, but the main one was that in the Christmas holidays she bit me on the arm just because I said she had a face like a potato (which was also true)’.

I felt the author wasn’t necessarily asking for sympathy for any of the characters. I think she wanted her readers to experience the buzzes and urges, the excuses and thought processes. I got right inside this story. Gut deep.

The First Day of Spring as a title gives nothing away to what’s between the covers. We see Springtime as new beginnings, fresh growth and hope for the future. We don’t associate it with despair and neglect and murder.

Although this sounds like a disturbing and saddening read, it was exceptionally entertaining throughout. The dialogue and descriptions were sublime, creating crystal clear imagery of characters and setting.

The First Day of Spring is an unforgettable debut, but it won’t be for everyone. It’s a difficult subject, I know a few were struggling with it on Pigeonhole, but me and my dark heart lapped it up. I consumed it and it consumed me.

Thank you to everyone at Pigeonhole for the opportunity to read such a compelling book.

The Last House on Needless Street by Catriona Ward

OK, so this mysterious book has been doing the rounds and luckily I didn’t come across any spoilers prior to starting it. Thank goodness!! 

Right, how to write the vaguest of vague reviews yet keep it interesting. Now that’s what I call a challenge!!

How have readers reviewed this without letting the cat out of the bag I’ll never know. It’s a tough one to write. But I’ll do my best. 

What/who’s it about then? 

Well, Ted, predominately. A recluse of a man who lives in a boarded-up house on the street in the books title. It’s situated on the edge of a wooded area somewhere in NW Washington state, US. 

He lives with his young daughter, Lauren and his religious pet cat Olivia. Yes, you read that right, a RELIGIOUS CAT.

There’s history of children going missing in the area, but none of them have ever been found and the crimes have never been solved. 

This is the first time I’ve read a book, finished it, and then had the pleasure of watching it being discussed on television. I was determined to watch Between the Covers on BBC2 last night with the smuggest face ever. Yes, even the guests talking to Sara Cox also struggled to say much about it in case they leaked spoilers!

Throughout reading I had to stop and hold onto my head for fear of my brain exploding! I lost count of how many times I said ‘wait, what, hang on a minute, that can’t be right’. I was re-reading sentences, dialogue, descriptions multiple times because I could not believe what I was reading. 

The Last House on Needless Street is a book I will never ever forget. I went to bed last night thinking about it. Working out how to write a review that would do it the justice it deserves.

I awoke this morning absolutely none the wiser so just thought I’d get a very basic synopsis down and then go from there. 

To be honest, you just need to read it. If Stephen King loved it, then it’s got to be something pretty special don’t you think? 

I will say that Kings’ fans will definitely see a few nods to the man himself throughout the book. Clever, Catriona, very clever indeed!

I can’t say any more about it really, apart from if you buy one book this year, make it this one. It will blow your mind. 

‘People who have lived together for many generations share a special kind of madness’.

Apparently the film rights have been snapped up already and it’s translation rights have been sold in 18 territories. 

Catriona Ward is an exceptional writer and story teller. I’ve read stacks of horror and to discover something of such high quality within this genre is a bit of a rarity these days. It’s dark, clever, incredibly well researched and it could quite possibly be my Book of the Year. 

One last thought, if I were to read it again, knowing what I know now, it would be a completely different story. I don’t re-read that often, but this one is just begging for it!!